Letters of Fr. Seraphim Rose
131. May 29/June 11, 1973. St. John, Fool for Christ of Ustiug
Dear Brother in Christ, Alexey,
Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Both Fr. Herman and I read the article on Humanism and received about the same impression from it: that each point taken by itself makes sense, but that the whole article is too long, tries to include too many different citations and strands of thought, and that as a whole it is not sufficiently functional: i.e., at the end one is left with a lot of different thoughts but with no real resolution of them—one’s mind has been rather clouded by the diverse strands of humanist philosophy, and in the end these thoughts are not sufficiently dispelled by a clear, forceful, and serene conclusion.
With this in mind I read the article again and began to think of ways to add clarification: I rearranged several paragraphs, added some suggestions for giving some “punch” to the beginning, and then thought of suggesting that you greatly abridge the whole central portion where you discuss the different strands of humanism, making it more into an outline or series of highlights. But somehow this too wasn’t enough, and so I went back and read the first two articles in the series, on Freud and Evolution, and went from there straight into “Humanism.” From all this I came to the conclusion that this installment is quite different from the two earlier installments: the earlier installments treat specific questions with rather clear and definite conclusions that don’t leave any loose strands of thought; but the new article goes into a rather complex phenomenon which has many diverse strands and repeats some things from the earlier installments. Further, looking at the introduction to installment no. 1, it is clear that this is really an introduction to “humanism” in general, and both installments are themselves chapters in a study of “humanism” understood as the philosophy that underlies the whole attack of the “wolves” today.
Therefore, “Humanism” should not be simply installment no. 3 (which is to be followed by other installments apparently on other aspects of humanism), but rather a kind of summing up and placing in perspective of all the earlier installments.
Therefore, we would strongly advise putting aside the “Humanism” article altogether for now, and give instead another installment on a specific topic, such as the “educational philosophy” which you’ve promised for the next issue. You should still be early enough for the July-August issue to do this, I hope. And then when you’ve finished all the specific articles you want to give—then give “Humanism” as a summing up and overview of the whole—only not so long as it is here. As I said, we have some suggestions of putting more “punch” into the article, and we think the whole middle part should be greatly abridged and presented rather as a summary-outline. We’ve always had an unwritten rule for The Orthodox Word—that “controversial” or polemical subjects should never take up more than 50% of one issue if possible, so as to preserve a certain necessary balance and prevent us, even unconsciously, from going “overboard” on something which we might feel very strongly about.
Another point: We’ve heard one or two comments on the first two installments, something like: “What he says about these things is true enough, but is he really giving us an answer?” Of course, part of the “answer” you are giving so far is: be aware and protect yourselves and your children from these ideas. However, that alone is not enough, and if that’s all there’s going to be for an “answer” some people will end by saying you’re just crying “wolf, wolf!” and they won’t take with sufficient seriousness what you’re saying. Therefore we think the conclusion to the whole series should be quite clear and forceful, which perhaps you already have in mind: either at the end of the last installment, or as a separate final installment (though it probably doesn’t really need to be more than a paragraph or a page), you should definitely give the “answer”: that Orthodox Christians, surrounded by and already swimming in a sea of humanist-worldly philosophy and practice, must do everything possible to create their own islands in that sea of other-worldly, God-oriented thought and practice, and then tell some of the ways how. reading, services, etc. We are planning an article in the 1974 Calendar somewhat on this line, which hopefully will be out before you come to the conclusion of the series (Sept.-Oct.).
Well, such are our ideas; let us know what you think of them. We can talk about this and some other things when you come, God willing, on Pentecost. Pray for us.
With love in Christ our Saviour,
P.s. In connection with our earlier discussion on “bishops,” we wonder if the last sentence in the quote on the last page of the May-June issue isn’t placing some unnecessary emphasis on a point you’ve already made well enough? We are already in the age of “impious bishops’ which St. Seraphim prophesied, and already in many places (most notably Russia) a degree of “hiding” from or even outright disobedience to bishops has already become a spiritual necessity, and one which it is by no means easy to justify always on dogmatic or canonical grounds. This by no means changes the “rule” which you cite, but alas, there are people (also in our Russian Church Abroad!) who are only too anxious to take advantage of such “rules,” not for the good of the Church or the bishops, but for their own private purposes. And after all, everything depends on the “interpretation” of such rules: whether broadly and with the heart, or narrowly and coldly and calculatingly. Let's not give any ammunition to certain pharisees! Enough said?